The Quest for Mexican Residency
I am So Close But a Last Minute Surge of Haitian Refugees Threatens My Chances to Finish the Process Before Time Runs Out
Author's preface: For background and a whole bunch more information on moving to and living in Mexico as an expat US citizen please check out my earlier entries in this series of articles linked here, here, and here
For all the grousing you hear about illegal Mexican immigrants in the US, it often surprises people to learn that (depending on whom you ask and where you look) something like 75-90% of all United States citizens living in Mexico, are doing so illegally. Either their 180 visitor Visas long since expired, or, more likely, they never even bothered to get one. At that point they should have left the country and either obtained another visitor Visa or applied for temporary residency in the country. Obviously, based on the numbers I just cited above, the vast majority have decided to do neither. A large part of the reason for this I believe, is that, at least for Americans, Mexico makes it very easy to live here illegally. I can't speak to other ethnic groups but for US citizens there are no fears of immigration raids on US homes, or, except very rarely, even checks on documents when crossing the border into Mexico by car, or when leaving the country returning home. Crossing by foot can be a bit of a different story, but since almost all Americans living in Mexico drive, they never even have to produce their US passport to enter the country, let alone show a Visa proving they have a legal right to enter and stay. The reasons for this are two fold. First Mexico knows that American citizens living in their country are a major economic boon, and second, Mexico has neither the time, resources, nor desire to commit to tracking down, prosecuting, and removing illegal immigrants. It simply has bigger things on its plate to worry about. That could change in the future, but for now all those things combine to make Mexico a very easy place to live illegally for any American who wishes to do so.
Despite, or maybe because of all that, when my wife and I decided to move to Mexico we made a commitment that we would not contribute to that sad statistic. Instead, we would do things the right way, by the book, and fully legalize our status in Mexico. Make no mistake, the process to legal residency is long and painful. Very, very painful. In that way it is much like the US immigration system, which, at least from what I have been told by those who have experienced it first hand, is about as easy to navigate as the Straight of Magellan. That is to say, not at all easy. If you hope to gain residency in Mexico, you need to be prepared to commit a serious amount of time, and no small amount of money, to the process. And, more importantly, you need to get comfortable with the fact that there is no well defined process with a set of steps and rules to follow. You can't just go from point A to point B to Point C executing a series of instructions at each step. And the rules, such as they are, are often flexible and sometimes variable depending on whom exactly you happen to speak to and what particular mood they may be in on any given day. Most of all you need patience, lots and lots of patience. Speaking at least a little Spanish and maintaining a positive outlook will also go a long ways in improving your odds of success. Working with someone who has already gone through the process, in my case my wife, is another major bonus and is the only reason I was able to make it as far as I have. Without her holding my hand basically the entire time I would never have been able get to where I currently sit, which is ohh so close but not quite at, the finish line.
I am almost there, but things are hanging on a razor's edge at the moment. My 30 day visa expires on Tuesday and if I don't complete the canje (exchanging my visa for a green card) before then I will have to start over at ground zero and repeat the entire excrutiating process again. An influx of Haitian refugees fleeing a cholera outbreak in their home country has pressed the Mexican immigration system to its breaking point and getting the last appointment I need at the Tijuana immigration office to complete the canje has proved impossible to date (I have made four previous unsuccessful attempts). Tomorrow is my last chance to schedule that appointment. I am told by a couple different attorneys that I need to be one of the first 15 in line tomorrow to guarantee an appointment on monday. Last Friday there were approximately 200 people in line by 5am. I plan on being there by 4. I will be presenting the details of the process and the exciting conclusion in a couple of follow up pieces to be published at some point in the future. For now wish me luck and stay tuned. I need to get to sleep because tomorrow is set to be a very long day indeed.
About the Creator
Practicing mage of the natural sciences (Ph.D. micro/mol bio), Thought middle manager, Everyday Junglist, Selecta (Ret.), Boulderer, Cat lover, No tie shoelace user, Humorist, Argan oil aficionado. Occasional LinkedIn & Facebook user
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